The social sciences are not gathering all the fruits of certain recent developments of thought; they are not all of them even using the most modern method of study, which is wholly to abandon the region of abstract speculation and to study the behavior of men. Many political scientists talk about conferring power without analyzing power; many economists talk about representation in industry without analyzing representation; there are sociologists who talk about individual and social interests without sufficiently analyzing the difference, if there is one, between individual and social interests. In a book by a recent writer on politics these four words are used in a sentence of three lines: power, purpose, freedom, service. But the author has not told us what these words mean—and we do not know. We can find out only by watching in thousands of cases the working of power, purpose, freedom, only by watching the behavior of men.
The greatest need of today is a keen, analytical, objective study of human relations. We preach “compromise” as the apex of the ethical life, we laud the “balance of power” as our political and international faith, we give our substance and ourselves to establish an “equilibrium” of nations. But compromise sacrifices the integrity of the individual, and balance of power merely rearranges what already exists; it produces no new values. No fairer life for men will ever be the fruit of such doctrine. By adherence to such a creed we bind ourselves to equivalents, we do not seek the plusvalents of experience. If experience is to be progressive, another principle of human association must be found. I know of but one way to seek it. The conceptions of politics, economics and sociology should be studied -while they are still living in the lives of men. We need to study not the “conception” of a general will but concrete joint activity. We should, without disregarding whatever light the past has thrown on these questions, now look at men in their daily occupations at factory or store, at town meeting or congress, and see what we can learn. We should abandon the region of mere statement and counterstatement where so much controversy takes place. We should take our language too from the concrete daily happenings; the words we now use have nearly always ethical connotations which prejudge, which merely in themselves attribute praise or blame to individuals or groups or state.